Water Back-Ups in HO Policies
Differentiating Between Back-Up, Overflow, and Discharge
Water back-up is one of the more confusing coverages in a homeowners’ policy. It involves more than back-up, as overflow is mentioned in some of the coverages. But what
is a back-up, and how is it different from an overflow or a discharge?
These distinctions come into play when there is a water-related
loss, and what causes the back-up or overflow may help determine
whether coverage exists for a given claim.
First let’s take a closer look at definitions. A back-up is an accumulation
caused by a stoppage in the flow. This
is when something prevents the water
from continuing down its path, resulting
in water being forced to reverse direction and go back the other way. A collapsed drain pipe can cause a back-up;
water can no longer proceed down its
normal course and must change direction. A blockage can also cause a back-up; it prevents the water from going forward, and the water has to reverse.
An overflow is when water exceeds
its boundaries. In this case, the space is
filled to capacity, and water then spreads
beyond its limits. A tub left running creates an overflow. The tub can no longer
hold the water running into it, and so
the water overflows onto the floor and
the surrounding area(s).
A discharge is a flowing or issuing out;
water coming from a pipe. A leaking
pipe discharges water from the hole in
the pipe; it is not a back-up or an overflow. Rather, it is simply water issuing
from a pipe at the wrong spot.
Discharge or Overflow?
The ISO HO 00 03 provides coverage
for water damage that is the result of a
discharge or overflow of a plumbing,
heating, air conditioning, or household
appliance if it is on the residence premises. This covers pipes that leak behind
walls, floors, or ceilings; washing machines, dishwashers or toilets that overflow, or storm drains off-premises that
overflow because of high rains or floods.
It is important to note that a sump pump
or related equipment, or a roof drain,
gutter, downspout or similar equipment
is not considered a plumbing system or
a household appliance. A discharge or
overflow caused by a storm drain, water,
steam, or sewer pipe is covered as well
if it is off the premises.
The coverage is for repair of the dam-